Call Town Attorney John Bennett if you want to buy Avon Hall. Or call him if you’re interested in buying a piece of the nearly 16-acre property, which can now be subdivided into separate lots for a multitude of uses.
The Town Council released a resolution to sell and/or develop the Avon Hall property at 22 Avon Lane at their monthly meeting Monday night (Jan. 11) at the Washington Town Hall, with about 20 town residents in attendance. The resolution, which defines five potential uses of the property and maintains the council’s intention to preserve the unique character of the town, passed unanimously by a roll call vote.
According to the resolution, the council will give serious consideration to offers to:
- purchase the entire 15.92 acre property
- subdivide the property to create lots to facilitate the sale of existing structures on the property
- subdivide the property to create a six-acre lot to include Avon Hall and the pond
- subdivide the property to create a half-acre lot at the corner of Leggett Lane and Warren Avenue
- develop all or parts of the property to increase the number and diversity of residential homes in Town.
Councilman Gary Aichele made a motion to adopt the resolution, and Patrick O’Connell, Inn at Little Washington chef and proprietor, recused himself from the discussion and vote.
The resolution is the culmination of a comprehensive review and planning process that began in 2013.
Aichele noted that Avon Hall is the last large, contiguous piece of property owned by the Town, and the only one that the Town can still control. He said that the development of the property is probably every bit as important to the future of the Town as the development of the Avon Hall building itself. And once that became part of public conversation (last July), Aichele said, the next six months were occupied by the Avon Hall Property Study Group tracking down specific suggestions made by residents of the town and the county, about potential uses for both the buildings and the real estate.
“As that developed, we began to realize that this chunk of land and its buildings had real value to the Town coffers, which is not unimportant,” Aichele said, before reading the proposed resolution verbatim. “But the land is equally important to the destiny of the Town, which evolved into questions about the balance between commercial and residential properties . . . The Town and the council began to have this dialog, this conversation about what will happen if at least a portion of that property were used to create more residential buildings, more residential homes, more residential options. That became a separate subset of the conversation, which took a while to tease out.”
Mayor John Fox Sullivan recalls sitting on the hillside at Avon Hall 20 years ago — with his wife Beverly, their children and grandchildren, watching the three-legged and sack races of county kids before sunset — for the still-not-forgotten Fourth of July fireworks shows hosted by then-owner William M. Carrigan. The Town purchased the Avon Hall property from Carrigan’s estate in 2002, as the site for the construction of a wastewater treatment facility.
“What we decided at the meeting was to publicly put the Avon Hall property on the market,” Sullivan said. “We’re advertising it and alerting all real estate agents in and around the area that it’s for sale. And the ad will be that [resolution] that we distributed, which essentially says that all, or parts, or pieces of this property are available for sale.”
Town Attorney John Bennett will act as representing agent and point of contact for the sale. He described the process of receiving an offer, then presenting it to the council for approval at a monthly meeting, allowing a public hearing on the potential sale, before finalization and bill of sale.
“There are of course a number of existing ordinances that we’re going to have to consider, with the Architectural Review Board,” Bennett said at the meeting, adding that the council can zone around a proposal that has a lot of merit. “It’s not uncommon for governments who receive a proposal that really fits all the things they want to do that might not fit into an ordinance that was drafted 20 years ago. Times do change . . . There always is the question that there may be someone out there with experience in the matter to come in with a proposal that really hasn’t been thought of at all that could be perfect for the property, so we don’t want to say that it’s got to fit within the existing ordinances.”
Fred Catlin of the Planning Commission and the Avon Hall Property Study Group, who lives in Town on Mount Salem Avenue, commended the Town Council for its “willingness to listen to the public over the last eight months, and have the courage to go through the evolutionary process, and have the foresight to think about the future of the town.”
To which, the room erupted with applause.